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MEDIAN AGE OF POPULATION
Since 1982 there has been slow growth (6%) in the number of children (aged 0-14 years) in the population. In contrast, the number of persons aged 15-64 years has increased by 33%, and the number of persons aged 65 years and over has increased by 66%. This disparate growth pattern reflects a shift in the age structure of the total population, commensurate with gradual population ageing.
POPULATION CHANGE, Age group-1982 to 2002p
The proportion of children (aged 0-14 years) in the population has declined from 25% in 1982 to 20% in 2002. Conversely, the proportion of persons aged 15-64 years has increased from 65% to 67% over the same period, while the proportion of those aged 65 years and over has increased from 10% to 13%.
Nationally, the number of children aged 0-14 years decreased in the 12 months to June 2002 by 5,200 children (0.1%). An increase in the number of children aged 10-14 years of 1.0% (13,000 children) was largely offset by decreases in the number of children aged 0-4 years (-11,900 children) and 5-9 years (-6,300), reflecting Australia's declining fertility (from 1.86 babies per woman in 1991 to 1.73 in 2001).
Queensland was the only state to record growth in the number of children aged 0-14 years (0.9%), while the number of children in Victoria remained virtually unchanged (0.04%). All other states and territories experienced a decline in the number of children. Western Australia recorded the fastest decrease (-1.3%), followed by South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (-0.7% each), then New South Wales, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory (-0.5% each).
Overall, growth in the adult population (persons aged 15 years and over) far outweighed growth in Australia's child population, with an increase of 1.7% (254,700 persons) in the 12 months to June 2002. However, this growth was not evenly distributed across the adult population. The growth rate for those aged 15-44 years (1.0%) was considerably lower, and for those aged 45 years and over (2.5%) considerably higher, than the growth rate for the total population aged 15 years and over.
Aged 15-64 years
The number of persons aged 15-64 years grew by 1.5% during the 12 months to June 2002. For this age group, Queensland (2.4%) and Victoria (1.7%) experienced growth rates above the national average. The remaining states and territories all experienced increases below the national average: New South Wales (1.3%); the Australian Capital Territory (0.9%), South Australia (0.7%), Tasmania (0.3%) and
the Northern Territory (0.1%).
Aged 65 years and over
In the 12 months to June 2002, the number of persons aged 65 years and over increased by 2.2%, to just under 2.5 million in total. The Northern Territory (4.9%), the Australian Capital Territory (3.3%), Queensland (3.3%) and Western Australia (3.0%) all experienced growth above the national level in this age group. However, the territories still had relatively small older populations. As at June 2002, persons aged 65 years and over comprised 3.9% and 8.8% of the populations of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory respectively, compared to the national level of 12.7%. The populations aged 65 years and over in Queensland and Western Australia comprised 11.8% and 11.2% of the respective total populations of these states.
New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania each recorded growth rates of 1.9% in the older population (aged 65 years and over), while South Australia recorded an increase of 1.5% in this age group. Despite relatively low growth rates over the preceding 12 months, as at June 2002 all but one of these regions had an older population which was proportionally larger than that for Australia as a whole. Persons aged 65 years and over comprised 13.2% of the total population in New South Wales, 13.1% in Victoria, 14.0% in Tasmania and 14.8% in South Australia.
Aged 85 years and over
Proportionally, the greatest population increase in the year to June 2002 occurred among persons aged 85 years and over. During this period, the number of people in this age group increased from 265,200 to 280,400, a growth rate of 5.7%. This continues the rapid increase in the elderly population, which has grown by 164% over the last twenty years, compared to a total population growth of 29% over the same period. Increased life expectancy for both men and women has contributed to this rise. Reflecting the higher life expectancy of women, there were more than twice as many females (192,600) as males (87,800) in this age group.
In the 12 months to June 2002, the fastest increases in the number of persons aged 85 years and over occurred in the Australian Capital Territory (9.4%), Queensland (6.8%), Tasmania (6.3%) and New South Wales (6.2%). These states and territories experienced faster growth in the number of elderly people than did Australia as a whole. The Northern Territory shared the national growth rate for this age group (5.7%). Victoria (4.6%) had the smallest percentage increase in this age group of all the states and territories, followed by Western Australia (4.7%) and South Australia (5.5%).
The trend toward population ageing is established in many countries worldwide. In countries such as Italy, Japan and Greece, the number of persons aged 65 years and over already exceeds the number of children aged 0-14. Population ageing in these countries is a result of sustained low fertility rates, coupled with relatively high life expectancy. In Australia, the number of people aged 65 years and over is not projected to exceed the number of children aged 0-14 years until around 2020. See Population Projections, Australia, 1999 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0).
According to United Nations projections, all countries selected for analysis are expected to experience a decrease in the proportion of children in their populations between 2000 and 2005. In the majority of these countries, the decrease of persons aged 0-14 years is expected to be accompanied by increases in the proportions of persons aged 15-64 years and/or of persons aged 65 years and over. According to ABS projections, the proportion of children in the Australian population is expected to decline by more than one percentage point over the same period (from 20.7% in 2000 to 19.3% in 2005), while the proportions aged 15-64 years and 65 years and over are expected to rise, by one percentage point (from 66.9% to 67.9%) and by half a percentage point (from 12.4% to 12.9%) respectively. Countries such as Italy, Japan and Greece are expected to suffer proportional declines in their populations aged 15-64 years as well as their populations aged 0-14 years. These countries are therefore expected to experience large proportional increases in their populations aged 65 years and over.
In 2000, the age structure of Australia's population was closest to those of Canada and the United States of America. Generally, the European countries and Japan had smaller proportions of children and higher proportions of older people than did Australia. In contrast, countries from the Asian region tended to have proportionally more children and far fewer older people, generally reflecting considerably higher fertility rates and lower life expectancies than those experienced in Australia.
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